The long road to an Australian adult video game rating may be nearing its end, but the conditions of classification have come under fire from experts who claim the R18+ restriction continues to misidentify adults as children.

The Australian Classification Board has released official guidelines for the new ratings, which identify interactivity as a primary concern for classification decision making.

Interactivity is an important consideration that the Board must take into account when classifying computer games. This is because there are differences in what some sections of the community condone in relation to passive viewing or the effects passive viewing may have on the viewer (as may occur in a film) compared to actively controlling outcomes by making choices to take or not take action.

Due to the interactive nature of computer games and the active repetitive involvement of the participant, as a general rule computer games may have a higher impact than similarly themed depictions of the classifiable elements in film, and therefore greater potential for harm or detriment, particularly to minors.

Interactivity may increase the impact of some content: for example, impact may be higher where interactivity enables action such as inflicting realistically depicted injuries or death or post-mortem damage, attacking civilians or engaging in sexual activity. Greater degrees of interactivity (such as first-person gameplay compared to third-person gameplay) may also increase the impact of some content.

Interactivity includes the use of incentives and rewards, technical features and competitive intensity.

Except in material restricted to adults, nudity and sexual activity must not be related to incentives or rewards.

The perceived "impact" of violence, criminal acts and sexual gratuity has been a standard measure for the Australian Classification Board, but the contributing significance of interactivity has come under question from experts who claim it is the stuff of "scientific urban legend."

Associate Professor of psychology and communication at the University of Texas, Dr. Christopher Ferguson, told News Ltd, "The idea that the 'interactivity' of video games made them any more harmful than television or other media is pretty much dead." Ron Curry, CEO of the Interactive Gaming and Entertainment Association, succinctly cut to the quick of the matter, adding, "R18+ classification is not for kids."

A statement from IGEA in response to the release of Classification Outlines voiced cautious optemism, with a healthy dose of criticism. They highlight the issue of contradiction raised by a 2010 study released by the office of then-Attorney General, Robert McClelland, which specifically refuted the significance of interactivity.


Impact test

The impact of material classified R 18+ should not exceed high.

Note: Material classified R 18+ is legally restricted to adults. Some material classified R 18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community.

Classifiable elements

There are virtually no restrictions on the treatment of themes.

Violence is permitted. High impact violence that is, in context, frequently gratuitous, exploitative and offensive to a reasonable adult will not be permitted.

Actual sexual violence is not permitted.

Implied sexual violence that is visually depicted, interactive, not justified by context or related to incentives or rewards is not permitted.

Depictions of actual sexual activity are not permitted.

Depictions of simulated sexual activity may be permitted.

Depictions of simulated sexual activity that are explicit and realistic are not permitted.

There are virtually no restrictions on language.

Drug use is permitted.
Drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted.
Interactive illicit or proscribed drug use that is detailed and realistic is not permitted.

Nudity is permitted.

Note: Some of the terms used in this category are defined in the List of Terms at the end of these Guidelines.

The outline for R18+ Restricted classifications can be presumed to address the concerns of a majority of adult content previously Refused Classification. Dr. Ferguson speculates, "I suspect the comments are geared toward mollifying the moral crusading constituency whom I guess would otherwise be opposed to the new classification system." This will not prevent all future banning, however.

Video games may still be banned if they contain, "[Depictions of] violence with a very high degree of impact which are excessively frequent, prolonged, detailed or repetitive." The threshold for these measures should be relatively high, but they remain subject to interpretation.

Mortal Kombat was infamously Refused Classification in February 2011 for containing "violence that exceeds strong in impact" which was deemed "... heightened by the use of graphics which are realistically rendered and very detailed." The Australian Classification Board is a Federal statuory regulation body, rendering banned games illegal for sale or possession in the country.

Mortal Kombat's trademark violence saw the title banned for the first time, in 2011.

Ed Boon, Creative Director at NetherRealm Studios, will be in Australia October 5 - 7 to appear as the headline guest at EB Games Expo 2012. Injustice: Gods Among Us is being billed as the make-up game for Australians who missed out on Mortal Kombat.

Mortal Kombat Online has been following the Australian Classification issue since the original ban of Mortal Kombat, providing unrivaled leading coverage on the historic decision. The rating is expected to finally take effect January 1, 2013.

It is as yet unclear if Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition may be eligible for release once the rating is in place. Vita editions were submitted and Refused Classification in March, but Komplete Edition is believed to have been withheld. We encourage Australian users to share their enthusiasm (and criticism) on the forum.